1. Your first move in a selling crisis

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      What is your best first (positive) move in a selling crisis? It’s easy to become overwhelmed. Many possible remedies. Limited time, resources, attention. Success in B2B selling relies on effective sales conversations. Why then does it make sense to require each rep to figure out and execute every critical sales conversation, on their own, without guidance? It is not a competency sales people are trained for. Truly effective value conversations are complex, require study, and considered design work. Even the best sales people need to know what critical conversations they can expect to encounter, and how to effectively execute them. You experience this now, when you don’t know if your problems are due to poor messages (what to say), poor delivery (how to say it), an unprepared rep, or inadequate support (content, experts, coaching, etc). What if there was a way to plan for and design critical sales conversations,...
  2. An experience using sales conversation frameworks

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      I was only four prospecting calls into my target list. I was calling to talk about sales performance issues. Then, I got this response from a sales manager I reached: “We don’t have any significant sales performance issues. We killed it last year.” Now, think about the ways your BDRs, direct, or partner reps would handled this situation. The many — different — ways. Fortunately, when I designed this conversation framework, I identified this as a potential scenario. I remember reflecting on and testing alternative approaches for different scenarios, over a couple of days. In this particular situation, I selected a question: “What possible constraints to hitting this year’s goals are you most concerned with?” Bingo! I got this: “Our reward for an outstanding year last year was significant increases in our quotas for this year. Last year most of my reps performed really well. But that doesn’t mean...
  3. Why B2B sales organizations must requisition sales content

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      B2B sales leaders know that effective, situation-specific, sales ready content is a strategic imperative. It is a key driver of B2B sales effectiveness. To provision sales and partner teams with the right selling information and content the sales organization must requisition sales content from their providers. Most people aren’t aware that effective sales content is significantly different from marketing content. This discovery helps explain the perennial frustration and challenge in arming sales and partner reps with what they really need (vs think they need). In short:   Marketing creates content for markets, segments and personas, to generate conversations (leads for sales people, PR and brand and other marketing purposes). Sales people require information and content to conduct conversations with specific account and buying teams. To be useful, sales content must align to and support the specific purposes of both sellers and buyers. So the question really is: How is it possible for non-sales-oriented, creative content people ...
  4. Where to start when you experience B2B sales performance issues

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      If you are a B2B sales leader experiencing sales performance issues, with sales teams that must execute a complex, solution, or value sales model — what do you plan to do? These are some of the actions you might be taking, or considering: A performance improvement “initiative” – reps often refer to this as the “program of the moment” – messaging work, prospecting training, account strategy planning, sales coaching, etc. Re-organize – teams, managers, adjust sales resources Change sales tactics — specialty teams, named accounts, vertical teams, product specialists, changes to individual rep’s sales bag Re-work territories – add or remove accounts Make product and/or pricing changes Manipulate incentives – (will spiffs work as well for a complex, value sale, as they do in a high-volume transactional sale?) We hear sales reps comment on it this way, “every six months it’s the same drill, people run around asking ‘why isn’t this working?‘” When this...
  5. Three focused actions improve your B2B sales effectiveness

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      This article introduces the discovery of a simple and practical approach to improve B2B sales effectiveness. It is especially important for B2B selling organizations with, or trying to adopt, a value selling model. And it’s an approach few organizations have thought about.   The Sales Effectiveness Problem and Core Cause For B2B selling organizations, there is only one primary sales problem … … the inability to predictably, reliably and profitably hit your revenue (growth) number.  There are numerous causes. The cause that seems most pervasive, and not well addressed, is … … the inability to deliver effective knowledge, conversations, and information, in context, at scale.  These factors are each important and inter-related. But the core cause is ineffective sales conversations. Specifically, the inability to engage new prospects effectively, to speak with insight about the prospect’s business issues, and to create value through how you sell as much as with...
  6. Questions for B2B Sales and Marketing Leaders

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        Are you involved with a commodity, or a complex/value sale? How would you know? Do your prospects understand the business problem that your offer addresses? Do they know what’s required to solve that problem? If the answer is “yes” to both, you are selling a commodity — or soon to be — offer. If the answer is yes to the first question, and no to the second, yours is a value added commodity offer. If the answer is no to both, you’re in a complex/value selling situation. Why does this matter? How does your marketing and sales strategy differ if you sell a complex/value offer? For many companies that require a complex/value selling model, this may be the crux of your new customer acquisition and revenue growth problem. You’re using a traditional marketing and sales strategy to conduct a value sale. What’s the difference? A key premise of the traditional marketing and selling model...
  7. Critical but misunderstood Challenger “B” sales conversations

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    Most sales reps who are trained in the CEB Challenger Sales model do a pretty good job with the “A” sales conversations. This is the first of what I call three distinct “sales” in the B2B complex or value sales process. In a complex or value sale, we first need to “close” the customer on the need to change, due to the real and urgent nature and cost of their current business state and problem.The Challenger Customer principle is to first address, or “break down,” the customer’s “mental model” of their business and problem. Their label for this the “A” stage of a sale. Challenger points out that most B2B sales reps proceed immediately to the “C” stage — how they solve the problem. CEB didn’t even bother putting “C” on their model. It comes automatically. We’re all so anxious to explain how we solve the business problem, and the value (proposition)...
  8. Sales Content for Sales Knowledge and Performance Support

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        This article is a deeper consideration of some of the questions and answers raised in my article, Marketing and Sales Content — Differences that Matter. A category of sales content I highlighted is Sales Knowledge and Performance Support. Outside of onboarding, periodic training, and informal sharing, this is an area that is largely left up to individuals. When this is the case, sales organizations lose an important sales performance lever — a continuous, collaborative learning and performance support program. Sales (enablement) leaders should foster a culture of learning, which is different than a culture of training. “Knowledge which is related but not identical to information, is exploding at the same rate as information. Doubling every two years.  Even though our knowledge is expanding exponentially, our questions are expanding exponentially fast.  And as mathematicians will tell you, the widening gap between two exponential curves is itself an exponential curve. That gap between questions and...
  9. Sell, don’t market your way to success with new paradigm offers

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      B2B companies bringing new offers to market risk long delays in product or solution uptake. Too often this leads to direct failure. Failure rates range from 40% to 80%. Clearly a risky and expensive bet. This risk isn’t limited to startups. Often we see large companies struggle to gain traction with new offers or new markets. One senior executive told me, “we are buried in our core brand.” This isn’t about direct replacement offers. But for what analyst firm SiriusDecisions terms “new paradigm and new concept” solutions it is a significant challenge.   New Paradigm Offers Require a Different Go-to-market Strategy New paradigm solutions provide a different way to solve business problems than existing solution methods. Customers may not understand key underlying causes of their problems that are resolved by new solutions. Sellers could be addressing problems customers aren’t even aware of. Or, they may not even see their problems...
  10. 6 actions for sales leaders to get the right sales content

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      Sales and sales channel performance suffers due to poor or missing situation-specific sales information. This is still a common B2B selling problem. Despite significant investments in sales and marketing technologies, most B2B organizations don’t provide enough of the right information and content to their sales and channel sales organizations — and audiences! Sales content isn’t designed and created “on purpose.” It isn’t created to meet well-defined use case requirements. Without clear requirement definitions, developers don’t know what to create, how or why. Sales organizations don’t know if they’re getting what they need. Marketing is largely responsible for content strategy and development. Yet few marketers can provide clear definitions or guidelines for what effective sales content really is. Most believe they currently create the content sales needs. They believe the problem is lack of awareness or access to that content. This is flawed thinking. Symptoms of this are the decades...
  11. A Conversation About B2B Selling Content

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      “What is the state of B2B selling content today?” That was the first question Barb Giamanco asked me on her sales podcast, Right Message, Right Support, Right Sales Content, on the Razor’s Edge. How would you answer that for your organization? How would you know? Is your selling content considered short life collateral, or mostly long-life assets? What criteria would you use to audit the quality and usefulness of your content? Do you have an inventory that would make an audit possible? These are some of the questions we discussed. Below is an outline of key points I addressed that you might want your organization to consider.   Key Considerations for Effective Selling Content If your sales team conducts a complex, solution or value sale, situation-specific selling information and content is essential for your success. If you are trying to shift your selling model from a traditional product-feature-benefit approach...
  12. Getting Sales Content Right

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      As B2B selling organizations attempt to transition from a product to solution or value sale, they must deal with the new realities of selling in a digital era characterized by self-educating teams of buyers. This new reality has made high-performing, situation-specific information and content a strategic imperative for B2B organizations in general, and direct and channel sales teams in particular. Two of the most under-served B2B functions when it comes to content are direct and channel sales organizations. There are many reasons for this. Too many executives aren’t aware of this imperative or the impact it has on new customer acquisition, revenue growth, selling costs or customer experience. As one senior sales executive at a large technology company said to me years ago, “what is content, it’s collateral, right?” Whew! Sadly, this mindset is still prevalent today. Marketing departments assume the content they create is suitable for sales. Often...
  13. Use Information Interview for Sales Prospecting Conversations

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    B2B sales organizations with a complex, “platform,” or value sales process face some of their biggest challenges in the initial prospecting stage. The process for a value sale is naturally longer than a simple product sale. Companies risk missing revenue growth targets when sellers are ineffective or inefficient at getting target accounts to engage. A couple of big deals can make a huge difference at the end of the year. If your sales role is major accounts, you have even more at stake. In addition to the basic causes — poor, undisciplined prospecting skills and techniques — I see a flawed general approach to prospecting for the value sale model. Sellers bring a product prospecting mindset, approach and conversation to this task. This is exacerbated by buyer tendencies to apply a product buying mindset to initial conversations. We’ve all heard “what are you selling” questions, since the early days of...
  14. The epidemic in B2B sales prospecting

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        Many B2B selling organizations hit a wall in their new customer acquisition and revenue growth rates. Sales pipeline quality, volume and conversion rates are both symptom and impact of this situation. This condition is especially evident in companies that are engaged in a complex or solution sale. Sometimes this is called a system or platform sale. The analyst firm SiriusDecisions calls it a “new paradigm” or “new concept” sale.  I and others use “value sale”. Even companies with a traditional, product selling model are not immune. Companies that experience stalled revenue growth may attempt to shift from traditional product selling, to a more consultative and comprehensive solutions or platform approach. Too often they bring their traditional selling mindset, process and skillset with them. The B2B sales prospecting epidemic is the result of a critical underlying cause most people are unaware of and do not fully appreciate even when they become aware.   An Example Companies that have had a...
  15. The B2B Value Sale is Actually Three Distinct Sales

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      Companies trying to execute a B2B solution or value sale must overcome selling problems that start at the prospecting stage and persist to the end. Symptoms include too few quality additions to the sales pipeline, protracted and lengthening sales cycles, and low win rates. A significant cause is sellers haven’t realigned messages, sales conversations, and sales process to the way buyers buy. This situation becomes more pronounced when selling to prospects who aren’t in an active buying process. We call this a “Find vs. Create Opportunity” situation. (See Find vs. Create Sales Opportunities) When I speak with B2B sales professionals they readily acknowledge there are not enough active buyers to meet quotas. In most organizations sales people tell me 80% of sales prospects have to be “created” as opportunities. But even with active buyers there are opportunities for B2B sales professionals to up their game. After all, they are often...

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